3rd June 2022
St John 9: 13 – 34
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.
I’m someone who likes order and structure in church (unless I’m the one causing the chaos). So it’s very frustrating when something works in practice, despite the fact that it doesn’t work in theory, at least as far as I understand the theory. This puts me in sympathy with the Pharisees here, at least up to a point.
No Jew is supposed to work on the sabbath day. Instead, it’s a time to enjoy God’s creation and give thanks to God. Jesus (a Jew) has prepared a healing mud and spit concoction for application to the blind man’s eyes. This could be taken to constitute ‘work’ and so would transgress the sabbath day, making Jesus a ‘sinner’, at least in theory. But, and this is a big ‘but’, as a result of Jesus’s sabbath day action (work?) someone who formerly had been blind can now see.
Making the blind see is divine, godly activity (Isaiah 42:7), but how can Jesus be or do that? After all, according to the theory of the Pharisees (and others), ‘he is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ In practice, though, Jesus has performed such a divine healing sign. In theory, then, he cannot be a sinner! If your head hurts at this point, think of what it was doing to Pharisees who were trying to make sense of it.
Then follow salutary lessons on how not to respond to good things which threaten the status quo, whether by the pool of Siloam, or in a church today. Don’t blame someone for doing good because it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t blame people for being happy when something good happens to them. Instead, look and listen, share the joy, and carefully adjust your theories of God and the Church to fit the good news.
O God, make me a good Christian, in practice as well as in theory. Amen.